Executed in vibrant hues with boldness, vitality, and precision, this rare double-portrait can be attributed to the hand of Joseph Goodhue Chandler (1813-1884). Painted just before the mid-century, it is nearly five feet tall and represents the most evolved phase of American folk portraiture. Within Chandler's oeuvre, it represents an early but developed period of his work and a pinnacle of artistic achievement.
The attribution to Joseph Goodhue Chandler is based upon its similarity to signed works by the artist. The carefully modeled faces and broad planes of the children's clothing contrasting with the detailed renderings of eyes, lace, and sharp botanical realism of the background can be distinctively associated with many of Chandler's paintings of the 1840s. In particular, the shape and character of the faces, ears, eyes, pointed chins, and upward curving eye brows of the children in this painting are similar to the portrait of Charles H. Sisson painted in 1850, now at the National Gallery of Art (illustrated in Chotner, American Naive Paintings (Washington, D.C.), p.61) and the portrait of Charles Parsons, Jr., painted in 1847 (illustrated in John W. Keefe, "Joseph Goodhue Chandler (1813-1884): Itinerant painter of the Connecticut River Valley," Antiques (November 1972), p.848, pl.I). Another characteristic of Chandler's work is his propensity to juxtapose full, three-dimensional elements such as the girl's bonnet and the boy's almost surreal black hat by his feet, with flatter, less developed elements as trellis.
The unidentified sitters appear to be dressed in a manner that would indicate that the painting was completed in the late 1830s or very early 1840s. The high waist of the girl's dress and both of their collars suggest this date. Further marking the period are the direct, frontal gazes and overall poses of the children which may show the influence that photography was beginning to have on this generation of folk painters in America.
Born in South Hadley, Massachusetts in 1813, Chandler first was a cabinetmaker and later went to Albany to study painting under the tutelage of William Collins (1787-1847). Soon after marrying the painter Lucretia Ann Waite of Hubbardston, Massachusetts, in 1840, Chandler began a decade of itinerant painting and it is during this period that he painted his best known and most accomplished works. In 1852, the couple established a studio in Boston where they are thought to have worked together. Although Chandler is known to have been a successful land manager throughout his adult life, it was in 1860 that he returned to a farm in Hubbardston where he spent the rest of his days.
Chandler's paintings can be found in many private and museum collections including The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Historic Deerfield, Deerfield, Massacusetts; The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection, Williamsburg, Virginia; Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusettes; The Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont; The New York State Historical Association at Cooperstown, New York.